Ostermann named Main Street volunteer of the year
When Melanie Ostermann moved from Iowa City, Iowa to Rhinelander in search of that small-town feel in 1971, she at first didn’t know what she had gotten herself into.
“When I first came we didn’t even have long distance service,” she said. “The other thing that really struck me was how everyone knew everything about everyone else. But that was what I wanted. I wanted that small town atmosphere.”
It wasn’t long before Ostermann was in love with her new home town and with it came a sense of giving back to the community.
“Volunteering is just something I believe you do,” she said. “It is not something you do to get an award.”
Yet that is just want Ostermann received recently at the annual Wisconsin Main Street Awards when she was named Main Street Volunteer of the Year.
“I almost didn’t go because I don’t like talking about myself and being rewarded for volunteer work,” Ostermann said. “But we went and it was a very nice time. I am very thankful for everyone who thought of me but there are a lot of great people volunteering.”
Ostermann said she received a plaque but was reluctant to put it up on her wall.
“I came home and when I went to bed it was sitting on the table,” she said. “When I got up, my husband had taken down one of my pictures and put it up on the wall. He said we need to leave it there for a while and look at it. I am looking forward to having my picture put back up there.”
It is that type of selflessness that has propeled Ostermann through her volunteering career with the city and Downtown Rhinelander Inc.
Ostermann spent time as fair secretary under the direction of Fair Coordinator Tina Werre, a paid position, but it put her in contact with many of the people she volunteers with now.
“I got to know a lot of people working with the fair,” she said. “It is a lot of work and it takes a lot to get things done.”
So Ostermann knew what it was like to rely on volunteers and when others came calling, she gladly chipped in.
“I like helping people,” she said. “I believe it is just something you do.”
It was while she was volunteering at Rhinelander’s PotatoFest this summer that she knew something was in the works in terms of recognition.
“They insisted on taking my picture,” she said. “I figured something was up.”
To pick up her award, Ostermann attended the state-wide convention held in Wausau and while she didn’t like the attention on herself, she said it was great to hear about other projects going on around the state.
“There are a lot of great things happening out there,” she said. “It was so much fun listening to what people are doing in other parts of Wisconsin.”
As for her goals for Rhinelander, Ostermann said she will keep volunteering because she would like to see Rhinelander’s downtown recapture some of its former glory.
“When I first came to Rhinelander the downtown was so vibrant,” she said.
“Friday night, the street would be packed. I know that it will probably never be that vibrant again but I would like to see us revitalize the downtown area.”
Several more take home awards
While Ostermann was named volunteer of the year, several Rhinelander area individuals and projects were recognized by the Wisconsin Main Street organization.
The best volunteer program/project award went to the Liberty Elm Tree Planting headed by Bruce Carlson; the best business citizen award went to Ruth and Henning Hempel of Forth Floral, Inc.; the best historic restoration project honorable mention went to the Rhinelander City Hall project, city of Rhinelander; and Mark Gutteter was named to the 2012-2013 Main Street Honorary Board of Directors.